The Tale of an Assassin

Russia, 1989

Reports in the local newspapers carried the devastating news of the slow demise of the Soviet Union. Everywhere, people were in worse condition. The effects of the destructive Cold War were still being felt, and those still trapped in this war-stricken Union were helpless…

In the icy town of Murmansk, a young boy was being ushered into a dark, hostile-looking building.

The wooden structure was anything but grand; there were no windows, and it had only one door, which was protected by a series of locks.

The two burly guards threw their young charge into the dimly-lit room, and closed the door with a resounding thud!

The young boy, barely fifteen, was in dismal condition. He had two blackened eyes, a heavily bruised face, and a nasty cut along his left arm; all work of the Mafiya that managed to capture him.

In fact, the two guards had no idea what would be needed from such a young boy, but they were under strict orders from the Boss, and failing to comply with him meant sure cold death. There was also the matter of the hefty sum awaiting them on delivery of the subject…

*

Mikhail Matvei was afraid. There was no other emotion surging through him that was any more powerful than this one. He feverishly looked around him, taking in whatever little there was to see in the room.

As a young boy growing up in the Soviet Union, he knew of the harshness and difficulties of living in the nightmare, but never had he expected to actually be in a situation such as this.

Just then, the door rattled – and slowly pushed open. Standing in the frame, silhouetted by the bright light from the snow, was the figure of a tall, thin man.

Slowly, with careful, calculated steps, he left the biting cold outside and entered the warmth of the dark room.

“Ah, Mikhail. Good to see you’re well…” the man said, his voice rasping like nails scraping down a chalkboard.

Mikhail didn’t say anything; he was already under the spell of this man’s authority. Of course, he knew who the man was… he had seen his face in the local newspaper often… they referred to him as Gustav…

“I’m sure you must be wondering why I’ve brought you here… out in the cold, and away from your home… well, I shall tell you, dear Mikhail…” His voice sounded friendly, as if Mikhail and Gustav had known each other for many years; any other person would’ve thought alike, before they noticed the evil glint in Gustav’s eye…

“I have a proposition for you – a proposition which will make you richer than you could ever have dreamt of, and have power and authority higher than this Union has ever had…” Gustav said, the glint in his eye even more pronounced by his excitement.

“I only ask for you to do one thing for me: help me to overthrow this dreadful empire… then in the chaos that will certainly ensue in the aftermath, we may claim authority over the entire Soviet government… you will be like a prince; anything you could ever want, you will have…” A small smile crept out the corners of his mouth, whilst he paced the desolate room.

Mikhail looked at the tall man standing before him. He was certainly demented, but he did seem to have some idea as to what to do… Mikhail recalled the countless times he had overheard people complain about the state of the nation, yet here was a man, just meters away from him, who seemed to have a good idea of what to do to rid this empire of its evils. Yet, that evil glint ever so evident in his eyes told of a different story… perhaps there was more to this plan then what Mikhail knew after all…

Finally, after much deliberation, the young Russian came to a decision.

“I accept.”

Gustav immediately stopped pacing the room. He turned sharply, his overcoat billowing in the wake of his sudden movement. The smile crept back across the man’s lips.

“Well then. There is much work to do. Good luck, dear Mikhail… one day, you will think back to this night, and you will thank yourself for the right decision you have made.”

*

Moscow, Russia

The youth was nervous, to say the least. Barely sixteen, and to face a task as perilous as this? However, it was for the good of his people, Mikhail reasoned with his nagging side. Yes, that was what it was for; if he failed in this mission, he wouldn’t just let himself down – an entire nation of innocent people relied on him.

For what seemed like the hundredth time, he went over the entire plan:

In just under half an hour, the Tsar would be giving the important speech to the public; of course, it was all propaganda – they were like puppeteers, controlling marionettes. It was here, whilst mingling in the audience, that Mikhail would fire the single shot; the single shot to change the fate of these innocent people…

Gustav would be at a precise forty-five degree angle to Mikhail, to provide “protection” if anything went wrong.

Mikhail glanced at the watch Gustav had given to him an hour before he disappeared without explanation.

It was time.

The fifteen-year-old took his place amongst the standing crowd. He tried not to be nervous or scared – at least, not to look scared; but anyone who looked close enough would make out beads of sweat trickling down the youth’s forehead, which, of course, would seem rather strange in the icy Russian winter.

Mikhail looked up just in time to see Gustav glance over at him; the two held their gaze for a second – and it was then that Mikhail noticed it again: it was quick, like a flash of lightning – that same, menacing, evil glint in Gustav’s eyes. But just as he’d noticed it, it disappeared.

And then the Tsar came up to the podium, shuffling papers.

It was now or never, Mikhail thought. His grasp on the pistol tightened. He released the safety lock, as he’d been instructed.

Suddenly, his mind flashed to that evil glint in Gustav’s eye only seconds ago… and that’s when the youth made up his mind.

In a swift, silent motion, he pulled out the firearm, took aim and fired.

There was silence. Mikhail took advantage of this to drop the gun, at the same time looking shocked not unlike everybody else.

The Tsar’s personal bodyguards were alert, and searching the crowd for the sudden sound. And that’s when one of them noticed the man, falling slowly, blood spilling fast from a severe wound to his back.

The crowd noticed too: the chaos had begun. Mikhail took advantage of this to maneuver his way out of the crowd. It was only once the chaos had subsided; once the Tsar had safely been taken away from the arena, that the identity of the man who had been killed was revealed. He was a wanted fugitive; a rebel of the Union by the name of Gustav.

Five kilometers away, on the far outskirts of Moscow, in a secluded industrial area, a fifteen-year-old boy was leaning against a metal gate, gasping for breath, his face blank. He had just killed someone – but he knew that what he did was right; he knew, from the constant evil glint in Gustav’s eye, that once the man was in control, he – Mikhail, would not be needed; Gustav would surely dispose of him.

Now, Mikhail was the fugitive. And, an enemy to the Union once it was discovered who the firearm in the arena belonged to.

There was only one thing to do. The incident an hour ago had proven his natural-born talent.

He was going to finish the job he’d initially set out to do.

Mikhail was to be an assassin.

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